On the whole, the pet family cat of today enjoys a better quality of life than at any time in the past. Because of advances in veterinary care, good nutrition and freedom from the stresses of reproduction, many pet cats pass into a contented old age and may live to be sixteen or seventeen. However, an elderly cat does require a little more in the way of care than a younger one since some diseases and conditions are more likely to arise in old age. An old cat naturally becomes less active and adventurous and will tend to spend a great deal of time sleeping in a warm and comfortable place.
Warmth is much more important for an old cat, and it should always be able to get in out of the cold and wet. An old cat is often more susceptible to infections as its immune system probably becomes less efficient at this stage. It is advisable, therefore, to keep vaccination well up-to-date and to seek early veterinary advice if your cat exhibits any signs of ill health. In the same way, worming is very important as an elderly cat may have less resistance to internal parasites and become debilitated as a result of their presence.
An old cat requires less feeding once its activity declines but at the same time it may become a fussy eater and refuse food that was previously enjoyed. There is no harm in coaxing the cat and indulging it a little at this stage in its life by offering more tasty, highly flavored foods from time to time. One should first check, however, that there is nothing wrong with the cat’s teeth as dental problems are quite common in old age.
Sometimes it is important for teeth to be removed under a general anaesthetics, but a cat can manage to eat very well as long as its gums are firm and healthy. Canned commercial foods are obviously useful for a cat that has dental problems as they are soft. Constipation, which can be so severe that the animal fails t: pass any motions at all, can be a problem in an elderly cat. is sometimes caused by a loss of normal muscle tone in bowel, and veterinary attention is needed to improve the situation.
Cancerous tumors more common in older cats, and symptoms and treatment depend upon the site and nature of the malignancy. Regrettably treatment by means of surgery, drugs (chemotherapy) or radiation (radiotherapy) may not effect a cure but much can u be done to alleviate symptoms, at least for a while. Heart disease and kidney failure are two other disorders that are more likely to arise in elderly cats, and, depending upon severity, drug treatments can often relieve the symptoms for a time and improve the quality of life. With all these conditions, however, the time may come when the kindest course of action is to have the cat put painlessly to sleep.
Arthritis is more common in older cats, often noticed as stiff-ness, particularly on first getting up after resting. An old cat may not keep its claws in good order, and it may be necessary have these trimmed from time to time.